All 7 entries tagged Media

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October 20, 2009

Marc Reeves on the future of local and regional media

Writing about web page http://bit.ly/1zhwox

Big announcement today about the future of the Birmingham Post:

http://blogs.birminghampost.net/cgi-bin/mt421/mt-tb.cgi/154938

Warwick hosted an event last week where Post Editor Marc Reeves talked about the future of local and regional media, including some discussion on the situation at the Birmingham Post.

Here is the presentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ppjUogQuM

The other presentations are at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/business/news/does_business_news/


July 13, 2009

Media outcries, military tactics and the problems of Afghanistan

Much of the reporting of the current British military involvement in Afghanistan has left me somewhat irritated and has caused some discussion in the household about the current state of war reporting and of people’s understanding of military matters.

Two things to say first.

1. None of this discussion is intended to lessen the individual tragedy of any death or injury or the impact of this on families and loved ones – it’s all horrid and awful

2. I say this stuff as a reflection on various reading and study over many years rather than from any direct experience of military engagement.

So, firstly. Some of the debate about ‘are our troops getting the protection they need’ or ‘we need more armour, helicopters, bigger, heavier, stronger’ leaves me wondering about what people understand about military operations.

Lets think about helicopters first.

Helicopters are great for getting from one place to another very quickly and in moderate safety. Not complete safety mind you. Helicopters are still vulnerable to ground fire – Black Hawk Down is a useful reminder of this.

The other thing about helicopters is that they are great for rapid response to a situation, but they don’t allow for long term domination of territory. The American experience in Vietnam is a useful comparison. Helicopters allowed US forces to move quickly around zones but with a few problems. Landing zones attracted a lot of attention from enemy fire making them dangerous locations. VC forces would get wind of the approaching US troops, leave an area wait for the patrols to leave and then come back. It made it very difficult for the US to actually gain long term control of areas. To do that you need men on the ground over a long period, not jumping from zone to zone to zone in an endlessly futile dance.

At some point you also have to get out of the helicopters and actually spend some time on the ground. You can’t effectively search an area using helicopters – you need to talk to people and get a grounds eye view, and that means risk.

And on that point – piling up armour seems to me to be an odd response. There are many occasions where fast and light wins over slow and heavy, especially in areas of uneven terrain and against a lightly armoured fast enemy. Yes, it means accepting greater risk but there are reasons why it can useful to be quick and manouverable.

Take for example a much older scenario. The massed ranks of French cavalry on the field of Agincourt were feared as the ultimate shock troops of their age. Heavily armoured, a mass charge was a terrible thing to experience, let alone be on the end of. However, as history illustrates, a muddy field and an opposing line of lightly armed English Longbowmen soon brought the medieval tanks to a grinding halt.

Similarly there are plenty of examples from more modern time where quick infantry have knocked out heavily armoured tanks and transports. Sure, you’d give the odds to the tank but then you can still get occasions when a plucky soldier armed with just a PIAT (basically a high explosive round stuck on a spring – not kidding! Afghanistan would not be the first time British Troops have been sent into combat with crap weapons!) can take out a heavily armoured German self-propelled gun.

And again, at some point you have to get out of the tank and walk about and that means risk.

The heavy armour approach leads you down the line of American Forces – big tanks, big guns – and this is not necessarily going to win hearts and minds.

The Russians had this same problem in Afghanistan – they had plenty of helicopters, tanks and more, and they couldn’t manage it.

This is a difficult conflict in military, political and ethical terms. I worry that the way it is reported turns it into the sort of debate we have about England’s lack of a genuine left-footed winger. It’s a gross over simplification of the reality of modern conflict.

And on this subject. The media representation seems to have drifted into a position where death and injury is a surprise. Do we think this is a zero-cost engagement? What is the agenda here? Do we think that with more equipment we can make soldiering a no-risk activity?

Some numbers:

Falklands – 74 days, 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers dead
Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam (where they had plenty of helicopters!) – 307 US killed
Allied dead in WW2 – 16 million in 6 years – of these 382,000 were UK
UK losses on D-day – 2,700
At Monte Cassino allied forces could lose 100s of men in hours of fighting, let alone days.

and that’s not to mention the terrible attrition of the first world war.

Not sure what the point here is – do we think that we can minimise risks in a combat situation? Considering where we have been the forces in Afghanistan seem to be doing a rather effective job of managing risk.

If you look at those numbers it’s simple – this is a risky business and if we are going to take military action then people will die, regardless of how many helicopters, tanks, sets of body armour and the like we can provide. Indeed, over reliance on these things may in fact reduce operational effectiveness both in terms of getting the locals on side and being able to respond to a mobile enemy.

It’s all a damn sight more complicated than the reports on the 24 hour news channels would like it to be.


March 13, 2008

Channel 4 support for Public Service Broadcasting

Writing about web page http://www.channel4.com/about4/fullreport.html

Interesting report from Channel 4 outlining the future for the channel, especially the announcement of a £50m fund for Public Service broadcasting.

Focussed very much on digital media the initiative will seek to bring together creatives, public organisations and Channel 4 to push forward the development of this content. The money will support content creation but also aggregation of existing content.

What’s nice to see is this statement:

We will challenge many of the broadcaster-centric approaches to commissioning and distributing content that exist within the industry. We will explore different funding and business models. And we will have further opportunities to place the needs, expectations and feedback of audiences at the heart of the projects we invest in, which in turn will create insights that will be relevant for the whole of our output

Which for me is a challenge to public sector organisations to explore how we relate to traditional broadcasters and how we might start to more directly involve ourselves in content production for these channels.


March 12, 2008

YouTube API

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/blog?entry=yFlR6EEySg8

Interesting post on the YouTube blog – especially the bit:

The University of California, Berkeley is bringing free educational content to the world, enhancing their open source lecture capture and delivery system to publish videos automatically into YouTube.

There is a big move in the US to basically open up all sorts of material to the public – an Open Source Education to some extent.

I’m not sure whether the same appetite exists in Europe. Whilst we are very elearning friendly I am not clear of the extent to which the HE community is comfortable with, or even aware of, the idea that we should make public as much as possible of the University experience.


March 07, 2008

Oh ho ho – iplayer hits the iPod Touch

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2008/03/bbc_iplayer_on_iphone_behind_t.html

Hey Hey!

The BBC today launched the iPlayer for the iPod Touch and iPhone.

Joy oh joy oh joy.

Looks and sounds awesome (in my immediate opinion – I remain to be proven wrong in the coming days).

What’s most interesting is the associated blog post where Anthony Rose describes the transcoding process whereby all the lovely BBc programmes make it to the iPlayer for download or streaming.

Those input files are encoded at over 50Mbps which makes them huge – around 25GB per hour of incoming video. With eight BBC TV channels plus 18 regional news broadcasts, that means we need to deal with up to 24 simultaneous incoming programmes, for a peak data rate of over a gigabit per second of incoming video.

It sounds like this is scratching the surface of a pretty impressive process.


February 25, 2008

Stats, stats and more stats – part 1

Ian Rowley and Kevin Johnson presented a range of stats and ‘facts’ about digital media at the Skills Session on the 19th. Following a request for some of the data – here is the first stat.

1. Pace of change:

- 40 years for 50m to own a radio
- 16 years for 50m to own a PC
- 5 years for 50m to be on the internet
- UK consumers spend an average of 50 hours a week on the phone, surfing the internet, watching TV or listening to the radio (Ofcom).

Whilst this may surprise some people I don’t know how much of an eye-opener this stat is. Does this just apply to the web? How many years did it take for 50 million vaccuum cleaners to be sold as opposed to 50m Dyson’s?

What is interesting though is the rate at which services are emerging and gaining mass audiences. YouTube took about 18 months to go from nothing to global phenomenon and serious player. Google has garnered a market position in a fraction of the time it took Microsoft to do so.

What we have not seen, at least in the last 3-4 years (don’t remind me of the last bubble burst, gah! The scars still run deep…), is the flip side of this – rapid growth can be matched by rapid collapse. Facebook skirted with this when they launched their first major attempt at monetising their membership with social ads. Indeed, Facebook has just had it’s first DROP in monthly usage. Whilst wailing and gnashing of teeth may be premature, it’s a useful reminder that today’s technological success story can easily be tomorrow’s 8-track.

However, not to undermine myself too much one can see that we have moved on from the situation 5 years ago where investment in online video/audio could be seen as a risky venture to one where the infrastructure positively demands its consideration. I guess the story in the stat above is not what the hardware is but the impact it has in terms of the availability of tools. After all – having a radio does not make you a radio producer. Having a PC with a broadband connection does.

I suppose its the difference between being sold a vaccuum cleaner and being sold a CAD package and all the bits you need to make a customised dust-kicking suction monster. With go faster stripes.


Digital Media session – some follow ups

The presentations at the Digital Media skills sessions seem to have gone down well, at least from the audience feedback I have had so far. As a presenter I choose never to judge myself in these matters.

Anyway, one of the outputs from the session was that some people wanted further information about various things and to continue the discussion around digital media and specifically the opportunities at Warwick.

As such I will endevour to start publishing some items of interest here for your perusal, consideration and discussion.

This should break down into a few clear areas:

1) the tools and technologies at Warwick
2) techniques and good practice (hopefully with some examples)
3) broader commentry and reporting of stats and trends as and when my addled brain can make sense of them (and considering I’ve been up at 4am for the last 7 days, don’t expect too much of that…)

I hope that some of the other people involved in video and audio production will be able to join in these posts – I will be inviting guest contributors (you know who you are!).

I can’t promise that this will be anything like regular but we can do our best…


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